APNU/AFC anticipates “favourable ruling” on 2nd election petition – Harmon
The APNU/AFC coalition is eagerly awaiting next week’s ruling by Chief Justice Roxane George, who is expected to decide the fate of the second elections petition filed which seeks to vitiate the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections.
The petition is being challenged by Attorney General Anil Nandlall with the support of People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) General Secretary Bharrat Jagdeo, who are asking the High Court to strike it out.
In the November 10, 2020 application, Nandlall asked that the second election petition filed by the coalition be dismissed on the grounds that it was served in breach of the requirements under Section 2 of the National Assembly Validity of Elections Act.
Justice George is expected to rule Monday on the preliminary arguments relating to the defective service of the petition and whether former President and Leader of the APNU, David Granger is a necessary party in the proceedings.
According to Leader of the Opposition Joseph Harmon during a press conference on Friday, the APNU/AFC is anticipating a favourable ruling.
“We do expect a favourable ruling but it is the court that will make that determination and so we don’t want to prejudge what the Judge is going to say.
“But once there is a favourable ruling, we look forward to the substantive hearing of the petitions before the court. So, what we expect is some timelines will thereafter be set for the substantive trial. If, in fact, there is an adverse ruling on one of the petitions, I believe if that is so then we have the right to appeal,” he posited.
Harmon further stated that the coalition is looking forward to the substantive cases being heard by the court so that the contentions in their petitions can not only become a record of the court, but also known to the international community.
“What we want is for the substantive matters which we have raised in both petitions to be heard by the court and so it becomes a record of the court and the people of the world, because some of them who are not listening to us while we were raising all of these concerns during the 33 days of recount but I suppose they will listen to us now because of some similarity of what took place here and what is taking place in another part of the world,” he stated.
Lawyers for petitioners Monica Thomas and Brennan Nurse have urged the Chief Justice during the December 1, 2020 hearing to overlook the deficiencies in the service of the petition on Granger, who is the second respondent and Head of the APNU/AFC List of Candidates, hence, spare their petition from being tossed out.
The former President was served on September 25, 2020, which is 10 days after the petition was filed on September 15. As such, Trinidadian Senior Counsel John Jeremie urged the High Court to disregard the date on the acknowledgement of service and focus on the date on the affidavit.
However, when questioned by Justice George who made the error, the lawyer could not say.
In fact, during a case management hearing in October 2020, the Chief Justice had pointed out that service of the petition on Granger was “out of time”. She had noted that according to the rules, the petition must be served within five days of filing on the respondents, but the court records show that the petitions were served until September 25.
Nevertheless, during the December hearing, AG Nandlall had lambasted the petitioners’ lawyers in court for proving unable to explain the mix up regarding the date of service and went on to reiterate that the Chief Justice should dismiss the petition.
Granger’s legal team had made efforts to extricate him from the case by using Section 27 of the Validity of Elections Act and gave notice that he would not be contesting the petition.
But Nandlall argued that by using this Act, Granger himself has acknowledged that he is a properly named party in the case.
Section 27 (2) of the Validity of Elections Act states “A respondent who has given the prescribed notice that he does not intend to oppose the petition or for whom any person has been substituted shall not be allowed to appear or act as a party against the petition in any proceedings thereon.”
“A respondent, your honour, must mean a properly named respondent. So, by filing that notice to say that he is not opposing that petition, Mr Granger has implicitly or rather, expressly accepted that he is a properly named respondent. That is what the Section gives him the power to do… Mr Granger cannot contend that he is not a proper party in the petition and then use a mechanism in the Act that is directed to proper respondents. He cannot have it both ways, your honour,” Nandlall had contended in court.